Tampa Bay Lightning, facing 2-0 hole, blame tentative play vs. Washington Capitals


TAMPA — Who’re the Tampa Bay Lightning?

Are they the crew that shredded the New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins in 5 video games apiece to advance to the Jap Convention finals, a crew of environment friendly protection, dynamic offense and memorable depth?

Or are they no matter was on the ice for 2 house losses to the Washington Capitals, defeats that put them squarely on the incorrect aspect of historical past? Since 1974-75, solely two groups have rallied from a 2-Zero gap in 41 convention last/semifinal collection. However that gap is the place Tampa resides after a 6-2 loss on Sunday in Sport 2 of the Jap Convention finals.

Who’re the Tampa Bay Lightning? Not even they will let you know anymore.

“If there is one thing I can sit here and say about these two games, it’s that we just played tentative and a little bit slow. We didn’t get 113 points by playing that way. We didn’t win the first two rounds by playing that way. These first two games, that’s the way we’ve played,” coach Jon Cooper mentioned. “By no means am I sitting here saying, ‘Oh, it’s all us, not them.’ They’ve got a really good team, they’re feeling it, playing with some confidence right now. It’s a little surprising for us that we’re not because we sure had confidence coming into Jersey, we had confidence coming into Boston, and right now we’re just not making the plays we need to make.”

The Lightning began Sport 2 nicely, taking part in aggressively offensively and taking a 2-1 lead into the second interval on the power of two power-play targets. However they have been skated out of the collection at 5-on-5, with the Capitals holding a 7-1 edge in scoring at even power, and had been once more for the final 40 minutes Sunday.

“It’s hard to compare different series, but they’re doing a good job. They move the puck well. They get it out clean from their own zone. It seems like we can’t establish our forecheck the way we want to,” defenseman Anton Stralman mentioned. “I guess the big difference, and now I am going to compare, is rushes. We didn’t give up many rushes in that Boston series, and now we are. That’s execution of the game plan and structure.”

It is also an absence of execution from the Lightning, who have not been capable of maintain strain on Capitals goalie Braden Holtby. That comes again to a insecurity, in keeping with Cooper.

“We’re a lot of one-and-dones. So give them credit: Once that first shot gets through, it doesn’t seem that we’re getting that second chance that we like. We’re getting a little bit of zone time, but either we’re passing when we should shoot or shooting when we should pass,” he mentioned. “But ultimately, we’re turning the puck over too much, something we didn’t do the first two rounds. When you do that, it’s hard to generate anything. Your guys are going one way, and now all of a sudden they’re coming back at you. That’s been our issue.”

When the Capitals are on the push, the Lightning protection that was so efficient within the earlier two rounds simply wilts.

“We’ve defended well this entire playoffs before these last couple of games, and that’s why we’ve had success,” mentioned Steven Stamkos, who had one of many targets for Tampa within the 6-2 loss. “These past couple of games, we haven’t defended with the same sense of urgency, and [we’re] really hanging our goalie out to dry. They had a lot of quality chances. You can’t do that this time of the year.”

Andrei Vasilevskiy, who has given up 10 targets on 62 photographs, hasn’t been the explanation the Lightning have misplaced the primary two video games of this collection, however he additionally hasn’t been the goalie he was within the earlier spherical. His over-aggressive play on an Evgeny Kuznetsov shot on a Capitals’ energy play late within the second interval resulted in a aim that crushed the spirit of Tampa — as a result of it was the second time in two video games the Capitals had scored a power-play aim with lower than 10 seconds remaining in a interval.

“Going into the third, we were energized,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz mentioned. “I’m not so sure they were because they got stung twice here. It does have an effect.”

“That’s the game-changer, I think, today,” Kuznetsov mentioned. “It’s always hard when you give up the goals at the end of the period.”

“It’s tough. They’re deflating,” Lightning ahead Alex Killorn mentioned.

However Cooper felt the sport was swung when the Lightning’s 2-1 lead was erased after their prime line did not convert a Three-on-1, and Devante Smith-Pelly, a fourth-liner for the Capitals, tied the sport on one other odd-man rush.

“The odd-man rush we had and didn’t do absolutely anything with it other than turn it over, and it ended up in the back of our net. That’s where the game swung,” he mentioned. “We were up 2-1, and it ended up 2-2. If you do something with that rush, it goes 3-1, who knows where that game goes after that. So that’s where it changed.”

That there have been a number of candidates from this recreation for many demoralizing second is telling. The Capitals have not simply taken the primary two video games of this collection; they’ve taken away the very identification of the Lightning, leaving them flustered.

“They look like they’re frustrated a little but over there,” Capitals ahead Brett Connolly mentioned. “We’ve got to keep playing hard, keep playing fast and stay on them.”

As they limp to D.C. for Sport Three on Tuesday, dealing with a seemingly unstoppable Capitals crew and a ticking clock on their playoff run, one query overshadows all others: Who’re the Tampa Bay Lightning?

“Let’s see who we really are,” Stamkos mentioned. “We haven’t had to really deal with [adversity] so far in the playoffs. Now we are, so we’ll see what type of team we are.”

Or what crew the Capitals will permit them to be.

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